Miami still has one more game, Wednesday at the Brooklyn Nets, and the team began Tuesday’s game with hopes of reaching the playoffs. However, the Detroit Pistons’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies, while the Heat were playing the Philadelphia 76ers, knocked Miami out of postseason contention.
That was the only down note for Heat fans during an evening in which Wade delivered emotional remarks before submitting a crowd-pleasing, 30-point performance in a rout of the Sixers, who rested starters Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick. “I’ve seen him go into his bag of tricks so many times and just compartmentalize,” Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade after the game. “But I’m truly amazed that he was able to perform like that tonight.”
Obama noted with wry humor in his remarks that the 37-year-old Wade was going out with some game left in him, saying, “I know what you’re going through, because saying goodbye to a career that you love is never easy. I’ve been there. In my case, though, I didn’t really have a choice. But my knees were shot, so I had to give up basketball forever. You, on the other hand, look like you’re still hoopin’ out there, and I imagine it’s a little tougher when you’ve just completed one of the greatest careers in NBA history.”
“For 16 years, you’ve given us high-wire dunks, big shots in big moments, more blocks than any guard in history, you were willing to sacrifice your body in the lane and, sometimes, sacrifice your ego in pursuit of a title,” Obama continued. “And whenever you got knocked down, you always showed us how to get back up. So you showed some Chicago spirit in you, and you did us proud.”
While Obama was not in attendance at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, celebrities on hand included Chrissy Teigen and husband John Legend, who fashioned a version of “Three is the Magic Number” into a Gatorade ad released earlier on Tuesday that used Wade’s jersey number to honor his career. Selected by the Heat as the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, Wade was instrumental in helping the franchise to all three of its NBA championships, and he holds many of its career records, including for most games, points, assists and steals.
Wade’s pregame introduction was delivered by his oldest son, Zaire, after which the 13-time all-star professed his “love” for the fans in Miami. He hailed each of his teammates, including his “brother,” 16-year Heat player Udonis Haslem, for “having my back.”
“It’s been incredible. It’s been amazing,” Wade said. “A lot of people in that arena have watched me grow, have watched me be imperfect, have watched me make a lot of mistakes in life, as well as watched me blossom and watched me do amazing things, great things. I’m thankful for it.”
After the game, Wade continued his season-long practice of exchanging jerseys with a member of the opposing team, giving Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler the honor. “Special, to see my brother get as much love as he deserves,” Butler said. “He’s one of the greatest to play this game, and I’m so happy he gets to go out on his terms.”
Wade then took the ritual further and shared jerseys with his son and all of his teammates. Throughout the evening, fans chanted, “MVP! MVP!”
“This city means everything to me,” Wade said. “It’s forever, forever, forever going to be my home. This is the end of the basketball part of me, but there’s so much I want to do in this city. So much more that we can accomplish together. I definitely look forward to that.”
“It’s like everything I’ve done has led up to this moment,” Wade added. “It’s like, all a body of work, all the injuries, all the surgeries, all the tough times. It led up to this moment. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to my last game in this arena, to my last season.”